Concert Review - "Men Love Mary" in NYC

Men Love Mary Tribute
SOB's NYC
January 20th 2010

Men Love Mary Tribute
SOB's NYC
January 20th 2010

Mary J. Blige - Stronger With Each Tear (2009)Mary J. Blige's My Life is a classic and, would you believe, it has already been 15 years since the tour de force hit the airwaves?  We are fully aware What's The 411 was Mary's introduction to us with a host of tracks like "You Remind Me," "Reminisce," and "Real Love" blaring out of car and club speakers everywhere.  However, My Life solidified Mary's spot in our souls and music collections. It was a turning point for her, as well as for her fans. For Mary, the narrative about the pain of maintaining a relationship, dealing with love lost and emerging from the darkness was therapeutic. As her fans, we felt as though we were supporting a friend through a tough time. Not only that, but a lot saw themselves in Mary's footsteps, finding a portal hole to forgiveness through the album.

15 years later, the idea to celebrate the anniversary of Mary's masterpiece was channeled through the collective team of the popular music website SoulBounce.  And not just any celebration, but a mixtape of My Life covers from a host of brilliant indie artists - the twist is, they are all male. With a stellar list of artists like Eric Roberson, Darien, Bradd Marquis and Slakah The Beatchild to name a few, there was sheer anticipation when news circulated that the mixtape was coming to life at Sol Village in New York City.

The night began as usual, with Eric Roberson stepping to the mic as the host of Sol Village.  Always the wisecracker, tonight was not any different with Erro singing his version of American Idol's new poster child for ‘15 minutes of fame' - yes, it was time for "Pants On The Ground."  It was bound to happen!  Every artist on the bill covered the song he did on the mixtape along with another Mary track.  Kicking off the tribute, D Maurice "DMo" Macklin got the evening on the way with his cover of "Mary's Joint."  However, his more memorable track of the two was definitely his rendition of "Love Without A Limit."  Even without his background track working and no background vocals, the crowd made up for the latter and carried him right through. It was phenomenal and set the tone for the evening to come.  Darien - even though under the weather, decided 2010 is going to be his and would not let a measly ailment stop him from doing what he loves. With that said, on he went with "Happy."  Uptempo and infused with a touch of jazz, he struggled a bit but it didn't stop him in his tracks. His momentum upped a notch with "All That I Can Say" but his masterful performance and one of the best for the night, was "All I Need."  Grabbing his shades from behind, spitting Meth's, first verse, while his background vocalist sang Mary's verse, was unforgettable.  And that was just the beginning...

TL Cross' cover of "Gotta Believe" had the same gritty energy, on the mixtape and live, that Mary's original had.  Even though we would have liked to of heard more from him, that was all we received. Bradd Marquis was undoubtedly ready to commit to having everyone on their knees in disbelief.  "I Never Wanna Live Without You" was intensely sung with urgency, while his duet with Tess Boogie was yet another highlight of the soiree.  Not just anyone can do "I Don't Want To Do Anything" and get away with it.  Eric's antics never let up, having patrons sing verses to different Mary tracks - for monetary compensation of course.  We were treated to "Not Goin' Cry" by a fan who literally grabbed the mic out of Eric's hands, an old school dance off to "Just Fine" by a not-so-shy patron and "Sweet Thing" by Eric and the more than willing crowd.  Adding tribute to the late, great Teddy Pendergrass by singing "Love TKO" was only fitting - and then right back into the flow of the show.  Jesse Boykins III wasn't as energetic as usual, yet his reggae injected rendition of "No One Else" did give the show a different vibration.  "My Life" was covered by the host himself and the finale was given an estrogen injection of epic proportions. With the ladies in the house holding down the mic, each leaving their own impression on the instrumental to "Everybody Loves The Sunshine." Lorenda Robinson jazzed and scatted it up, KiKi Hawkins broke it down so it could forever and consistently stay broken and Kimberly Nichole and Eric funked it up so hard, Bootsy would have been proud.  Reiterating the illustrious words of The Four Seasons: oh what a night.

This year's Grammy nominations are choc full of amazing indie artists, who have been rightfully selected by their peers for their accomplished work.  Foreign Exchange, Robert Glasper and Eric to name a few. The end of the show was a heartfelt thank you to everyone who supports indie music.  The golden opportunity here is for these artists' tracks to become regular radio hits.  For their albums to sell within the million mark and more and for everyone to take wind of the new wave coming our way because it isn't just good music, it is part of a legacy that will be left behind.  It is truly imperative this music be heard and shared.  This Men Love Mary mixtape and show, was a well crafted catalyst for what's to come.  Do not sleep on it.

By Ann Marie Collymore

 
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